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By Thomas Wheeler

One of the most remarkable video games to come along in a while is KINGDOM HEARTS, merging the Disney Universe with characters derived from the FINAL FANTASY concept developed by SquareSoft, a leading creator of video games, which of course also created Kingdom Hearts.

Not too surprisingly, a company has produced a series of action figures. Mirage Toys, formerly known as N2 Toys, has produced a set of six two-packs of action figures based on Kingdom Hearts. A second assortment is expected in the near future.

Each two-pack consists of one Disney character and one character developed by Squaresoft specifically for the Kingdom Hearts game, although all of the characters are copyrighted to Disney.

Overall, the figures are excellent. Articulation is a little limited on many of them, and a little quirky on others. Pre-posing is a problem for some, which I will address in the individual reviews. However, for the most part, detail work is astounding, and the likenesses are superb. If you've been enjoying the KINGDOM HEARTS game, you should try to find the figures.

Let's take a look at the individual two-packs:

SORA with JACK SKELLINGTON: Sora is the lead character in the game. He is a young boy who must make his way through the various worlds of the Disney Universe to rescue his friends, save the different Disney lands, and stop the evil Heartless (which as far as I know have no direct relation to Michael Eisner despite the boy having to save the different Disney-lands from heartless creatures). He carries with him an immense key called the Keyblade, which the Heartless seek to use to steal the hearts of all the characters from the Disney Universe. Now, a disclaimer here. I personally haven't played the Kingdom Hearts game -- yet. So some of my information, especially about the game-specific characters, may be a little off. I hope you will excuse that. The figure of Sora, unfortunately, comes up short in several respects in my opinion. It is far too pre-posed, especially for a central character, and he's got a ridiculous grin on his face that looks like he's trying out for a toothpaste commercial. This expression, from what I've been able to research, is based more on conceptual artwork rather than on the image of the character from the game. Interestingly, the toy package insert has a large picture of Sora with a much better expression on his face. If Mirage had used this as their basis, Sora would've been a much better figure. In fairness, though, just sculpting that hair can't have been easy. Sora comes with the Keyblade that is used in the game. The key has several links of actual metal chain attached. Nice touch. As for Jack Skellington, I've never cared for the "Nightmare Before Christmas" concept, so I don't really have any opinion about this figure one way or the other, except that I will say that it can't have been easy to sculpt a pin-striped suit on somebody THIS skinny. Credit where it's due here.

KAIRI with MALEFICENT: Kairi is a young girl who's one of Sora's friends that he must locate and perhaps rescue. The figure is fairly basic, with the expected "anime" look to her. She's decently articulated at the head, arms, waist, legs, and feet. That's one thing about these kids. They've all got immense feet. Overall, the design works within its own parameters, but I'd hate to challenge this crew to a soccer game. Maleficent is, of course, the evil character from Disney's classic "Sleeping Beauty". The figure isn't bad, but it's not entirely accurate to call it an action figure. The only articulation is in the head and hands. However, it's a truly superb likeness, and the pose is a classic, so I'm not going to argue too much. I think the skin tone could be a little greener, but that's about it.

RIKU with CAPTAIN HOOK: Hey, kid, your mother dresses you funny. I'm no fashion expert, but will somebody explain to me why this boy is wearing a yellow and black wet suit and blue hip-waders!? I wish that Jungle Book was one of the worlds visited in the video game, so Riku could try to make fun of Mowgli running around in nothing but red underwear, and Mowgli could laugh and reply, "Look who's talking about what someone ELSE is wearing!" Overall, though, it's a decent figure, well articulated and not especially pre-posed. The face could be a better likeness. Again, one is drawn to a comparison with the computer image on the package card. I know it's possible to take CGI imagery and translate it to an action figure. It was done with ReBoot figures years ago, and the RealScan system that's in place these days is used on many toys. It really should've been used here with this entire line. Riku comes with a sword so scary he looks like he beat up Skeletor to get it. But it should come in handy, given that Riku is packaged with the infamous Captain Hook. Hook's not a bad figure, but the head's a little big. On the other hand, it can't be easy to sculpt a head with a honker that big and a chin that would scare Jay Leno. Hook comes with a sword, and in a nice touch, the sword has a scabbard. Realy, it's a very decent version of one of Disney's classic villains.

DONALD DUCK with AIR SOLDIER: Donald is one of two prominent Disney characters that accompanies Sora on his journey to save his friends and carry out his mission. For the purposes of the game, Donald is dressed a little more ornately than usual, but not unrecognizably so. The figure has an appropriate ill-tempered scowl, and is fairly well articulated. There's some nice airbrush detailing on Donald's feet. He carries a staff of some sort, the head of which resembles a Final Fantasy character from Final Fantasy IX named "Vivi". Don't know much about him except that he looks like a rip-off of Orko from Masters of the Universe. Honestly, the stuff that works it way into these things. Donald comes packaged with an Air Soldier, clearly one of the bad guys, and notably one of the better articulated figures in the series. The figure moves at the head, arms, legs, feet, has double-jointed wings, and the propellor on his cap spins around quite freely. That's all we need -- a villain with a beanie cap...

GOOFY with GUARD ARMOR: The other of Disney's classic characters that accompanis Sora around. As with Donald, Goofy is a little more ornately outfitted than usual, but it's still in keeping with his usual look. The figure is excellent for the most part. The facial likeness is perfect, and the overall proportions are superb. Articulation could be better. I really don't see why they couldn't've articulated the legs. I see this sort of thing and I always sense some budget-busting pencil-pusher at work who has all the creativity of the calculator he's merged with. Goofy's not too bad, though, able to move at the head, arms, wrists, waist, feet, and a sort of swivel-elbow. He also comes with a shield with a rather distinctive symbol on it. Goofy is packaged with another bad guy, the so-called Guard Armor. Looks like a nasty reject from Medabots. Purple and pink thing that looks like a salt-shaker with attitude. I dunno, maybe it's more vicious than it looks.

PLUTO with DARKSIDE HEARTLESS: The Pluto figure is easily one of the best Pluto action figures ever created. It's not in the least pre-posed, unless you count a wide open smiling mouth. All four legs are articulated, as is the head. The figure has a collar that is loose. It doesn't come off the figure, but it just sort of bounces around Pluto's neck. Nice touch, actually. I recommend caution if you buy this toy and open it. Pluto has a very slender, delicate tail that passes through the plastic setting on which he's been packaged. as for the Darkside Heartless -- as I said, I haven't actually played the game, but I'm sort of assuming this monstrosity is the head bad guy. He looks a bit like Chernabog from "Fantastia" with a bad hair day. And with that gaping hole in his midsection, he also looks like a spokesman for the consequences of perpetual heartburn. No wonder he's a bad guy. The figure is well-designed, and ugly as heck. Odd that he'd be packaged with the perky Pluto, and if there's a worse villain in this game than this guy, I don't want to see it.

Overall, I am very pleased with the Kingdom Hearts figures. There's some things that could be better, of course, but if what you're looking for most is Disney figures with superb likenesses, and at least some sort of action figures of the Squaresoft-developed characters (although why they couldn't get better likenesses here I simply do not know), then you won't be disappointed. You MAY, however, have something of a struggle FINDING them. They've never turned up at Toys "R" Us, Target, or Wal-Mart, and while they have been reported at such outlets as Suncoast, Software Etc., and Babbages, they've generally been in such short quantity that they don't last one. One online report said that one store employee as much said that he had no intention of putting the case of figures out because he was going to buy it himself. My recommendation? Try shopping online. You may end up paying through the nose for them, but it may also be your only chance, and ultimately, they are very cool figures for an EXTREMELY cool video game, and Lord knows there's not a lot of really decent Disney action figures around these days. I definitely recommend the KINGDOM HEARTS figures!